• DronesDrones could be used to detect dangerous “butterfly” landmines

    It is estimated that there are at least 100 million military munitions and explosives of concern devices in the world, of various size, shape and composition. Millions of these are surface plastic landmines with low-pressure triggers, such as the mass-produced Soviet PFM-1 “butterfly” landmine. Drones could be used to detect dangerous “butterfly” landmines in remote regions of post-conflict countries.

  • K-9sImproving K-9 training

    Additive manufacturing (AM) has gone to the dogs, thanks to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL’s) new approach to K-9 training materials. The process prints 3D objects that contain trace amounts of nonreactive explosives, resulting in several advantages for K-9s and their handlers.

  • ExplosivesUnderstanding explosive sensitivity with molecule design

    Explosives have an inherent problem - they should be perfectly safe for handling and storage but detonate reliably on demand. Using computer modeling and a novel molecule design technique, scientists have replaced one “arm” of an explosive molecule to help unravel the first steps in the detonation process and better understand its sensitivity — how easily it begins a violent reaction.

  • DetectionExpanding real-time radiological threat detection to include other dangers

    Advanced commercially available technologies—such as additive manufacturing (3-D printing), small-scale chemical reactors for pharmaceuticals, and CRISPR gene-manipulation tools—have opened wide access to scientific exploration and discovery. In the hands of terrorists and rogue nation states, however, these capabilities could be misused to concoct chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in small quantities and in form factors that are hard to detect. DARPA’s SIGMA+ program aims to create additional sensors and networks to detect biological, chemical, and explosives threats.

  • IEDsProtecting soldiers from blast-induced brain injury

    Researchers have developed a new military vehicle shock absorbing device that may protect warfighters against traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to exposure to blasts caused by land mines. During Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, more than 250,000 warfighters were victims of such injuries. Prior to this study, most research on blast-induced TBI has focused on the effects of rapid changes in barometric pressure, also known as overpressure, on unmounted warfighters.

  • Aviation securityTSA sets new firearm discovery record

    TSA discovered a record breaking 104 firearms in carry-on bags around the United States from 5 through 11 February. The previous record of ninety-six firearms was set in July of 2017. Of the 104 firearms discovered, 87 were loaded and 38 had a round chambered. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. TSA says that the agency may impose civil penalties of up to $13,066 per violation per person for prohibited items violations and violations of other TSA regulations. Repeat violations will result in higher penalties.

  • IED detectionSpotting IEDs from a safe distance

    Landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and other homemade bombs struck 6,461 people worldwide in 2015, killing at least 1,672. Survivors are often left with devastating injuries. In a study published in BMJ Open, 70 percent of people hit by IEDS in Afghanistan required multiple amputations. These homemade bombs are often hidden—nestled in bushes, buried underground, or sometimes stuffed inside other objects. To keep soldiers away from these deadly weapons, researchers are developing technology that can spot explosive hazards precisely and from a safe distance.

  • ExplosivesMaking production of high explosives cheaper, safer

    Scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory found a solution to a significant challenge in making high-energy explosives. They safely improved the overall chemical yield derived from diaminoglyoxime, known as DAG, and significantly increased the amount of material made per reaction.

  • Airport securityU.K. gov. launches £3M competition for innovative airport bomb-detection tech

    Two U.K. government ministries — the Home Office and Department for Transport—have launched a Dragons’ Den-style investment prize, hoping to find innovative ways to detect bombs in laptops, phones, and cameras carried by passengers on board. The government has announced a £3 million competition in an effort to attract scientists and inventors to help the security services and the airline industry keep up with the nefarious ingenuity of terrorists.

  • Explosion detectionBalloon-borne infrasound sensor array detects explosions

    Infrasound is sound of very low frequencies, below 20 hertz, which is lower than humans can hear. African elephants produce infrasound for long-distance communication at around 15 hertz. For comparison, a bumblebee’s buzz is typically 150 hertz and humans hear in the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz. Infrasound is important because it’s one of the verification technologies the U.S. and the international community use to monitor explosions, including those caused by nuclear tests. Traditionally, infrasound is detected by ground-based sensor arrays, which don’t cover the open ocean and can be muddled by other noises, such as the wind. Sandia Lab scientists is using sheets of plastic, packing tape, some string, a little charcoal dust, and a white shoebox-size box to build a solar-powered hot air balloon for detecting infrasound.

  • LandminesEnlisting drones to detect unexploded landmines through changes in plant health

    From U.S. Navy laboratories to battlefields in Afghanistan, researchers are lining up to explore the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to detect unexploded landmines. Researchers are enlisting a third variable —plant health — to see whether drones can be used to more safely locate such weapons of destruction. Plant responses to explosives have only been tested – but at the leaf level and in the lab. Now, research can be applied at the field level with the use of UAVs.

  • Aviation securityNew simulator tool allows testing the explosive vulnerabilities of aircraft

    Each day, more than twenty-six thousand commercial flights transport passengers and cargo to destinations around the world. S&T’s Commercial Aircraft Vulnerability and Mitigation (CAVM) program supports testing and evaluation efforts to assess potential vulnerabilities and evaluate countermeasures that can mitigate the impact of explosives on commercial aircraft. Newer generations of commercial aircraft fuselages are being made with composite materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic, so CAVM needs to develop a sustainable and representative testing solution in order to all evaluations of new composite aircraft structures to explosive-based threats could continue as needed.

  • IEDsReducing IED threats: Commercially available precursor chemicals should be better monitored

    Policymakers’ efforts to reduce threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) should include greater oversight of precursor chemicals sold at the retail level – especially over the internet – that terrorists, violent extremists, or criminals use to make homemade explosives, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences. While retail sales of these precursor chemicals present a substantial vulnerability, they have not been a major focus of federal regulations so far.

  • Explosives detectionHomemade Explosive Characterization Program helps keep Americans safe

    Each day almost two million Americans travel on commercial aviation domestically and internationally, and in addition tens of millions use America’s mass transit systems. In recent months, several significant plots to take down commercial aircraft and attack public spaces have been thwarted due to the mitigation efforts of law enforcement and government counter terrorism agencies across the globe. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) says it is at the forefront of the response to, and mitigation against, such plots against the homeland.

  • TransportationSoft target, hard problem: Keeping surface transportation secure

    Maintaining security on the U.S. surface transportation systems takes significant resources and manpower, both which tend to be in short supply. What if there were a way to detect potential threats in bags or on persons from the moment they entered the subway? What if there was a way to know the path individuals take as they move through the system, and to relay that information to transit police in real-time?